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ORLANDO-Merrill Lynch Trust Co. and locally based Metro Savings are donating 10 buildable lots to the Orlando affiliate of Habitat for Humanity in what the donors call the largest private donation of land in Habitat’s local 15-year history. The largest previous donation was two lots.

Gregory W. Allen, deputy director, Habitat-Orlando, tells GlobeSt.com the estimated value of the land is $100,000 to $150,000. The lots average 50 feet by 100 feet.

Single-family, duplex and possibly triplex units could be built on the lots, area brokers say, although Habitat’s track record has been largely with single-family units. The 10 lots will probably comprise a single new subdivision, brokers say.

Merrill Lynch had purchased a large portion of loans on the properties from Metro Savings in 1997. The donation comes as the Thanksgiving holiday period approaches and follows the tragic terrorist events in New York and Washington, DC.

“Merrill Lynch has a great tradition of giving back to the communities it serves,” David McWilliams, managing director of the firm’s advisory division in Florida, says in a prepared statement. “The events of Sept. 11 have focused so many of us and galvanized our collective commitment to each others’ welfare.”

He says, “as individual and corporate citizens, we have the ability and responsibility to make a difference.”

Metro Savings Bank is the only remaining African-American owned and operated full service, FDIC-insured thrift in Florida. Founded in April 1963 as Washington Shores Federal Savings and Loan, the bank operates with headquarters in the Washington Shores neighborhood.

“Affordable home ownership is critical to building and sustaining a vibrant community,” Vernon Braddock, the bank’s president/CEO, says in the same statement.

Cheryl Taubensee, president, Habitat for Humanity of Greater Orlando, says in the statement the lots “will provide families with an opportunity for home ownership they otherwise would probably never have.”

Dean Fritchen, a longtime Downtown commercial and residential development observer and a senior associate at Arvida Real Estate Services Commercial Division, Winter Park, FL, tells GlobeSt.com the land gift is “good PR on the part of Merrill Lynch but it’s also good corporate involvement in ground-level community affairs.”

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